H1Z1 Battle Royale PS4 Review: All Kills No Frills

Battle royale games have established themselves as more than just a fad, and as the space becomes more crowded, games strive to carve out their niche. With the console port of H1Z1, focusing on simplicity and streamlined mechanics is how it stakes its claim. Significant changes were made to H1Z1’s original formula on PC to get you moving and encourage more action, which is further supported by intuitive controls. Where H1Z1’s lacking is in variety, due in large part to an uninspired map that’s missing interesting setpieces for its most intense firefights. But if the thrill of besting 100+ other players is what you seek, H1Z1 delivers just that.

As with many battle royales, your first objective is to quickly scavenge the dropzone for anything to improve your chances of survival. H1Z1 limits what’s available on the ground and in abandoned structures to common loot, but you’ll find enough to stay competitive in the opening minutes of a match. It’s not too difficult to get equipped with a pump shotgun, basic assault rifle, a few healing items, low-level armor, and small backpack, which alleviates the frustration of coming away with nothing even after combing through buildings. However, the good stuff is tucked away in supply crates that litter the map as the match progresses. Boxes of high-level equipment dropped from the sky is a genre staple, however, H1Z1 focuses on this element by strictly keeping the best items exclusive to crates.

By cranking up the frequency of supply drops and shining brightly colored beacons on them (that are visible in the distance), crates serve as hotbeds for action. The risk-reward nature instigates tense firefights, and encourages improvising a tactical approach; will you stake out the crate from a distance and use it as bait, or do you rush to loot it and get out of dodge before you’re preyed upon? When powerful weapons like the RPG, scoped burst rifle, or automatic shotgun are likely within grasp, it’s impossible to ignore these drops. Even if you’re unfamiliar with the effectiveness of specific gear, traditional color-coding to indicate rarity–white, green, purple, gold–makes it easy to identify what’s worth swooping up. It’s not groundbreaking, but H1Z1 devises a way to sensibly deliver the better elements of battle royale.

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It also helps that H1Z1 doesn’t hide much from you as it conveniently plots out nearby vehicles and supply crates on the map. While it takes some of the mystery out of this style of game, it’s another tweak that gives you the tools get to the fun parts without delay. Especially because the deadly gas zones close in on the remaining players quickly, it’s nice that the means for mobility are readily available. Considering that players parachute into the map at random locations (there’s no choosing where to drop), making resources available and visible upfront mitigates the feeling of getting the short end of the stick.

The systematic changes to the core of H1Z1 would be all for naught if there wasn’t a practical control scheme to tie it all together. Thankfully, the changes to gameplay mechanics feel as if they were done with a gamepad in mind. Support items like grenades, bandages, and first-aid kits have dedicated buttons, and swapping out weapons or changing your armor is as easy as picking up a replacement. Small backpacks open a third weapon slot, while the rare ones grant a fourth slot in a simple weapon wheel, effectively negating cumbersome weight management that’d be tough to incorporate for gamepads. Most significantly, item crafting has been nixed altogether. As a result, combat flows smoothly, and you’re a lot less likely to fumble around with the controls under high-pressure situations since there aren’t any clunky menus to navigate.

As with the PC version of H1Z1, though, there’s a dissonance between its military-sim DNA and quirky rules of engagement. Movement and weapon behavior are still very much in line with what you’d see in a tactical shooter. But being able to instantly pop out of cars at full speed without taking damage itself seems incongruous, and using that as a tactic to close the distance for shotgun kills adds further dissonance. To top it off, vehicles don’t inflict damage when ramming players. The wide-open design of the map makes these oddities stand out in a way that feels both thematically incoherent and disparate in a gameplay sense.

H1Z1 also falls short in its single map that’s largely made up of open fields and a scattering of deserted buildings. There’s a striking lack of features or interesting backdrops to stage the frantic firefights and make encounters feel fresh from match to match. The more dense locations like Pleasant Valley, Ranchito, or Dragon Lake offer some of those tense moments when you don’t know if enemies are weaving through buildings or peeking around corners. But overall, even marquee locations are visually uninspired and plainly laid out, which makes battles grow stale over time. Outside of outlandish cosmetics, the distinct lack of style or variety to how the game presents itself makes it hard to want to stay for long.

As a free-to-play game, microtransactions come part-and-parcel. Crowns work as purchasable in-game currency, and Credits are solely earned through playing the game and completing daily challenges. Here, H1Z1 has evolved with the times by incorporating a Battle Pass which unlocks an exclusive line of rewards–like cosmetics, emotes, and in-game currency–to earn as you level up (though nothing that provides gameplay advantages). It may be irksome that a loot box system remains the prevailing method for rewards, but it’s worth noting that each box spells out the rarity of the items you’ll receive.

H1Z1 doesn’t shake up the battle royale formula in any big way, but instead offers a simple, streamlined experience. It differentiates itself from its PC counterpart to its benefit by revamping the core systems at play, giving you just enough to work with in battle without being overwhelmed. But it’s still missing diversity in its action that would create lasting appeal. Bare presentation aside, the only map available isn’t the best vehicle for solid gameplay as its largely made up of uninteresting locations. In a crowded space of battle royale games all vying for your attention, H1Z1 makes room for itself by just focusing the action-packed moments–nothing more, nothing less.

Valve Launches Twitch Competitor Called Steam.tv

Valve, which runs digital game distribution platform Steam, has launched Steam.tv, a video streaming portal that could be direct competition to Twitch and YouTube. Steam.tv is currently showing Dota 2’s The International, with no option to watch any other games or stream to the service yet. However, it’s likely that both of these features will be introduced in the near future.

Once logged in, Steam.tv displays the new Steam Chat introduced recently and allows users to invite friends to join and view the video feed together. Although the site is currently a bit unstable, CNET has managed to explore some of the other functionality available. It reports that Steam.tv has built-in voice chat on Google Chrome, but this doesn’t seem to work on Firefox or Edge.

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At the time of writing, Valve hasn’t publicly acknowledged the launch of Steam.tv, opting instead to quietly make it live. Given the size of Steam’s user base and the fact that Steam is currently the leading digital game storefront, it makes sense that Valve would want to give Steam users a place to stream games or watch others do so. Although Twitch and YouTube are the go to services for game streaming, challengers have started to appear, most notably Microsoft’s Mixer service and now Steam.tv.

Steam is also facing competition when it comes to the sale of games, with Discord–already incredibly popular service for chatting while playing games–recently announcing it will start selling games, and even for some with an exclusivity period. Major publishers like Bethesda, meanwhile, are also starting to distance themselves from Valve’s platform. Fallout 76 will be distributed through Bethesda’s own service first, instead on Steam.

The recent Steam Chat launch introduced new grouping features, a Favorites tag, and also revealed more details on what friends doing. Friends will now automatically be grouped by game and by party, which makes it easier play with them. The dedicated friends menu will display specific details about what exactly friends are doing in a game too. Additionally, group chats can be pulled together much easier now. You can read more about the Steam Chat update here.

Fortnite Update 5.21 Patch Impressions: The Good And The Bad

The newest Fortnite patch, v5.21, launched this week on PS4, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch, and mobile. For Battle Royale, it adds two limited-time modes, Soaring 50s and Sniper Shootout, while a new weapon–the wall-piercing and super-deadly Heavy Sniper–joins the arsenal. You can read the full patch notes here. We’ve spent some time with the new update and here are our thoughts:

Soaring 50s LTM Is A Letdown:

A variant of the standard 50v50 mode, Soaring 50s gets its name from its focus on giving you more mobility options. The biggest part of this is that you can re-deploy your glider when you’re anywhere higher than 10 meters in the air. You will also find a greater-than-normal number of launch pads, bounce pads, and impulse grenades to give you more opportunities to zoom through the air.

I played a handful of Soaring 50s matches and found the experience to be mostly the same as the standard 50v50. It’s the same fast, frenetic, and frame rate chugging experience you’ve come to know and enjoy–or not. (I was playing on Xbox One X, but your mileage may vary). The “soaring” twist doesn’t add much or alter how matches play out in our experience. That being said, it is fun to be able to jump off buildings or build ramps knowing you can escape safely by gliding to the ground. However, I kept asking myself why I would want to do that. Staying alive is critical in Fortnite, and the new mobility options give you more methods to escape. But another key element of Fortnite’s team-based modes is staying close to teammates who can revive you. Soaring away in the heat of battle may let you escape quickly, but it can end up isolating you from the very teammates who could save you. The greater volume of launch pads and bounce pads makes the action more fast-paced and chaotic, but not any more fun in my experience. Soaring 50s is a more chaotic version of 50s, and if that’s what you’re after, it delivers. But it’s not up my alley.

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Sniper Shootout LTM Is Tense And Thrilling:

The other new LTM is Sniper Shootout, which only features sniper rifles. These include scoped rifles like the just-launched Heavy Sniper, as well as non-scoped long-range weapons like the Hunting Rifle. Snipers-only is a mainstay in the shooter genre, and Fortnite’s version will feel immediately familiar. The anxiety-inducing crackle of sniper rifle fire is now all around you, and it’s very stressful and tense. In terms of strategy, I found that taking the high ground was not always the best tactic. While it does allow you to scan far-away distances and get a jump on enemies, the top of a tower or a mountain leaves you exposed, and it’s exactly where other players will expect you to be. I had the most success when I took aim from unexpected locations, like through low-level windows and behind rock structures. Positioning is important, but it all comes down to your aim and how cool you are under fire.

Sniper rifles pack a punch but won’t knock you down in one shot (most of the time). So it’s critically important to have health packs and shield buffs in your inventory. Thankfully, these can be found all over the map in Sniper Shootout, so there is no excuse for not healing.

If you make it to the final stages of a match, with 25 or fewer people left, you’re likely to find yourself in 1v1 cat-and-mouse firefights. These are some of the most tense and thrilling battles Fortnite has to offer. It’s also a great opportunity to steal a kill. If you come across two players going head-to-head, they likely won’t see or hear you, and with all their efforts occupied in staving off the other player, they’re very exposed. There is no shame in stealing kills this way. This is actually the second iteration of Sniper Shootout, and I’m glad Epic removed the scoped assault rifles from the previous version. This is easily one of the best Fortnite limited-time modes. In addition to just being a lot of fun, it’s a great avenue to practice your sniping skills.

Heavy Sniper Packs A Punch:

The new weapon added in v5.21 is a big bruiser. The Heavy Sniper, which has Epic- and Legendary-level versions, will pop up in regular loot, chest, supply drops, and vending machines. As its name suggests, the Heavy Sniper packs a punch. It does 150+ damage per shot and 1050+ damage to structures, which makes it useful in weeding out enemies trying to hide. Also notable is that the Heavy Sniper bullets have less bullet drop than other sniper rifles. This sounds like a small change, but it makes the rifle very precise at long-range distances. This sets it apart from Fortnite’s other sniper rifles, which require you to lead enemies or aim above them to account for bullet drop.

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The Heavy Sniper is deadly, but with just one bullet in the chamber at a time and one of the longer reload times of all of Fortnite’s sniper rifles, it mandates that you make the most out of every shot. The weapon is available across all of Fortnite’s modes, but I recommend jumping into Sniper Shootout to put it to the test right away, as its drop rate in that mode is significantly higher than anywhere else. Overall, the Heavy Sniper is a welcome addition to Fortnite’s weapon lineup that makes sniping an even more useful tactic.

What do you think about Fortnite’s new v5.21 update? Let us know in the comments below!

Origin Access Adds Burnout Paradise Remastered And More This Month

Origin Access and Origin Access Premier are adding more PC more games this month, including Burnout Paradise Remastered, Pillars of the Earth, and Ghost of a Tale.

Origin Access Premier subscribers can now play the full version of Burnout Paradise Remastered, including the Big Surf Island expansion. While that game is exclusive to Premier subscribers, basis subscribers are getting new games as well. The full lineup is below.

  • Burnout Paradise Remastered (Premier only)
  • Fe
  • Figment
  • Ghost of a Tale
  • Hover
  • Mr. Shifty
  • Pillars of the Earth
  • Punch Club
  • Splasher

Origin Access Premier ($20/month or $130/year) is the recently launched premium version of the subscription service. The big benefit of Premier is that subscribers can play new EA games like Madden 19 and Battlefield V later this year on PC at no extra cost, while Basic members only get 10-hour trials.

You can learn more about Origin Access here on the platform’s website.

For more on Origin Access, you can check out the full rundown of free games here. A similar service called EA Access is available on Xbox One, but its game lineup is not the same.